The USS Quad Damage

Waving the flag

On what it means to be a pirate

I care not for your laws, for I am a giant.

I’ve been having this feeling that we’ve been doing Pirate – The Movement™ wrong in Australia. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, either, which is frustrating because you can feel pirateyness more than you can define it. There’s been a long discussion on The Why of Pirate Party Australia which is an attempt to distill what it means to be a pirate. I wrote my thoughts at the time:

A Youtube clip linked in IRC talking about the PPAU described us as “humanists”, and that rung especially true to me: Pirates have faith in people

It still rings true, but the problem is this: Lots of people have faith in people, but most of them are not Pirates. I failed to reason about this correctly even though I literally linked Amelia Andersdotter’s insightful post at the beginning of the post. Hers is an important post in the discussion for what it means to be a Pirate, I think.

I keep having this sense that the Pirate Party is clouding my thoughts about the Pirate movement, which has existed long before the political party, even if not in those terms. Back in the demoscene, if someone started making video games, they were called “sellouts”. I wonder if The Future Crew, makers of FutureMark, started making benchmarking software instead of video games because they didn’t want to be considered “sellouts”. It might sound like a random thought but it’s a salient one for chasing our identity.

I keep having this thought: We are defined by our weapons. Most people might not realise this but the act of being a Pirate is an act of intellectual crunk and bombast. Whether it is cracking into software, making intros or demos, or even breaking into online systems, it’s meant to assert dominance. It’s meant to be intimidating. It says "I care not for your laws, for I am a giant."

But it goes further than that. The fundamental act of Piracy is one of social engineering. It actually says: "We care not for your laws, for we are giants." The Pirate Bay is a perfect example of this: It is technology that empowers all of us. It is one of the most trafficked websites on the internet, it is high performance, and it’s still running, despite years of trying to shut it down via various means.

And this is the second part of the meaning of dominance. It doesn’t just dominate in a technical sense, it dominates in a social sense. The Pirate Party is a product of that dominance. It says “we exist, we cannot be ignored, and everyone is on our side”.

A Pirate’s primary fuel is creativity and vast swathes of spare time. Pirate Party Australia has been quite creative, and has put in prodigous amounts of time considering. But we’re still acting a lot like a political party. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need to do this, and when it comes to actual policy, we’re a force to be reckoned with. Not only do we have a vast number of well researched policies, but we’ve also made a large number of submissions to various reviews on several policies. As far as it goes, we cannot be accused of not taking part in the process. However, that isn’t very “Piratey”.

When we talk about recruiting, we also talk in terms very much like a political party: Going into universities and recruiting students, setting up societies, and the general political fare. However, the people we neeed aren’t 20, they’re probably closer to 15. And we don’t want them politicking, we want them creating. More than that, we want them to create intellectual crunk and bombast. Because this is how we get to a stage where we are giants, and where we cannot be ignored.

So in the end, have I figured out the why of being a Pirate? I don’t think so. For all the catharsis I’m still lost. All the “advice” here is purely speculative. But I feel like I’m getting closer. The Party is a veneer. It speaks of the movement, but not for the movement. In Australia, it feels like we’ve mostly been taking advantage of the movement rather than contributing significantly in our own right. I think that if we focus on the latter, we’ll eventually see a much stronger Pirate movement in this country, and therefore a stronger Pirate Party. And maybe that new generation of Pirates contributing to the movement can finally answer that question: What does it mean to be a pirate?